2010 Leglislative Priorities
by David Hiller, Advocacy Director
The short session of the Washington Legislature doesn’t convene until Monday, Jan. 11, but the work of drafting and advancing bills is already underway. With a looming $2.7 billion deficit, however, it’s going to be another dismal year in Olympia for anyone in need of revenue for their programs or priorities.
While it may be a poor time to ask for money, Cascade Bicycle Club argues that it is a perfect time to advance sweeping policy changes that will promote transportation choices, create healthy, vibrant communities, minimize the threat of climate disruption, and protect our farms and forests from sprawl development. Establishing stronger foundations for sustainability now will put Washington on then right path when the recession ends and development resumes.
For 2010, Cascade Bicycle Club will continue to work in partnership with Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Transportation Choices Coalition, Futurewise and the Sierra Club on a broad array of issues that advance the Club’s mission and enhance opportunities for bicycling.
The initiatives being driven by the Club broadly fall into three categories: funding, policy, and safety.
On the funding side, the current fiscal climate has undermined efforts to have a robust dialogue regarding fair funding for nonmotorized investments. Though bicycling and walking make up nearly 10 percent of all trips in the Central Puget Sound region, they received less than 2 percent of capital construction funds. Looking at state investment alone, the picture is even grimmer with only 0.3 percent of state construction funds set aside for nonmotorized investments.
For the 40 percent of Washington resident who cannot drive, this lack of investment leaves many without convenient or safe access to their communities. It’s unjust and inexcusable.
Working with TCC and others, we hope to offer a state “complete streets” law that will provide incentives and resources for communities that treat their roads as something other than sewers for cars. Though many details remain to be worked out, the bill would lay a path toward addressing some of the more egregious planning and funding disparities.
For our policy initiative, we have set our sites on the state’s “cost benefit” law for transportation investments. How, when and where people travel have broad impacts not accounted for in assessing the value of transportation investments. Currently, the state only models future travel needs and the potential for congestion without assessing the marginal costs of chronic diseases that result from sedentary lifestyles, air and water pollution, climate disruption, crashes that result in fatalities and disabling injuries and other transportation “externalities” that are broadly agreed upon. By not accounting for the true costs of driving, which studies peg between 70 cents and $1.20 per mile (of which only a fraction is paid by the driver,) nonmotorized transportation investments can’t compete.
With the help of Rep. Geoff Simpson we will introduce legislation for 2010 that will require WSDOT to assess external costs of transportation in its cost benefit model, which will more accurately capture the benefits of investing in bicycling, walking and transit.
Finally, we are committed to bringing our Vulnerable User law back to the legislature. Following the traffic justice summit in October and a number of high profile deaths in 2009 where the offending drivers were issued nothing more than traffic tickets, we are more driven than ever to pass our Vulnerable User Bill this session.
Listening to victims, survivors and other stakeholders, we have altered the trajectory for this bill. As drafted, it would mandate suspension of license, driver retraining, and community service along with a significant fine that may be avoided by complying with the previous requirements for drivers whose actions are the proximate cause of death or serious injury to a vulnerable roadway user.
Though we feel that it is high time to treat misuse of motor vehicles the same way we treat the misuse of any other inherently dangerous instrument, applying automatic criminal negligence the political will isn’t there. The bill we have written, however, is a huge step forward. It will ensure that drivers who kill and maim pedestrians and bicyclists are held accountable for their actions.
Want to help? Attend Transportation Advocacy Day on January 28.